Around 6th grade, our grade took ballroom dancing classes once a week in the evening. There were a lot of kids who were nervous, uncomfortable and awkward. Yet it was exciting, too.
The girls wore good dresses. Fancy dresses, Sunday best dresses. We wore shiny, black patent leather shoes with white, lace trimmed socks. We were taught how to sit properly with back straight, hands folded, one white cotton glove atop the other. Our ankles had to be straight, touching the floor, or better yet, crossed. NEVER could we have one foot crossed on the opposite knee.
The boys wore dress pants, button-down shirts, sports coats and their good shoes. And clip on ties of course. I don’t remember them having any ankle rules, but there was no fidgeting allowed for them.
We learned how to curtsy. I had a leg up in that department as I was curtsying as long as I can remember. It is so ingrained in me that a few years ago, at the age of 60, I curtsied automatically to a new school district Superintendent who surprised me with a visit to my classroom. I was wearing jeans. And was very embarrassed. It was a completely automatic response and I hadn’t curtsied in many decades. I think that she wondered if I was being a little rude.
The dance instructor lined the boys up on one side and the girls on the other. We would be paired up with the boy lined up in the same spot on the other side. Some jostling ensued with the girls trying to be across from either a boy we thought was cute or a boy that wouldn’t tread on our feet too much. Did the boys plan their spot in the line as well?
The music began and we stepped onto the dance floor with our partners. The box step was the first one we learned. It was amazing to me that some kids had trouble with it (hence getting stepped on). If you knew what a square was and could count, it was a snap. Of course, we had to do that in rhythm to the music but it was easy for me.
My smugness ended the moment the Cha Cha was introduced. I remember the instructor telling us to stop looking at our feet. Got it. No looking at feet. Maintain good posture. Count. Be aware of our partners. Don’t step on toes. Don’t crash into anyone. Phew. I finally got it.
I remember sneaking looks at my partners’s faces. We were supposed to look over their right shoulder. Which was difficult to do if we were both looking at our feet.
What I had no idea of at the time, was that these lessons would not have much, if any, impact on my future. I can ballroom dance but never have since then. And I still have bad posture.
With wonderful memories of white cotton gloves and clip-on ties.